Sure, in the beginning, redecorating a space can seem like a fun endeavor. But without a helping hand (or two), you could quickly find yourself knee-deep in expensive renovations and clean out of clever storage ideas. And that’s when it comes time to call in the cavalry. Enter: the interior designer.
Of course, when it comes to designers—particularly big-name, marquee, celebrity ones—their services certainly aren’t free. Their advice, however, is. And if you’re looking to totally transform your home, good advice is as good a place as any to start. So, for those who have champagne decor tastes but perhaps not a champagne budget, read on: we’ve rounded up all the best decorating advice from the greatest designers in the field. Implement this sage wisdom, and you’ll have a magazine-cover-worthy home in no time.
Consider the scale of your space.
In most cases, when working with small spaces it’s important to remember that comfort should always come first, as Seattle-based designer Brian Paquette told One Kings Lane. “Forgo the need to fill the space with everything you think you need and focus on comfort and usage—a real dining table you can spread out on, a sofa rather than a love seat, comfortable accent seating, and plenty of lighting options,” he said.
Remember that less can be more.
As it turns out, a more minimalist approach to your design scheme can open up the room and allow guests to focus in on the curated accents that you’ve worked so hard to incorporate into the space. And, according to Kendall Wilkinson, the Bay Area’s consummate celebrity designer, you should be approaching home design in the same way that you might approach your outfit ensemble. “Coco Chanel famously said that women, once dressed, should remove one accessory. I think that’s true for rooms as well,” she told One Kings Lane.
Add paint to your walls.
While it may seem like an obvious piece of advice, choosing challenging or compelling colors can really liven up any space in your home, according to Yael Meromy of the home staging and interior design firm Studio D. “This might seem obvious, but a lot of people don’t realize that something as simple (not to mention inexpensive and totally DIY-able) as a fresh coat of paint can completely elevate and transform a space into a sleek, chic and shiny-new version of its former self,” he says.
Work to create an emotional experience.
According to legendary interior designer John Saladino, your home’s interior should provide an emotional experience for every guest that steps into your home. “When you see a room for the first time, your blood pressure should go up. I like to create an emotional experience. A well-designed space doesn’t give out its secrets right away. It should never bore you or feel dated,” he told Elle Decor. Creating a truly compelling look is rather simple—just work to make every room a mixture of completely unique antique items and simple staples.
Experiment with color and texture.
As it turns out, the focal point of your room could exist on the walls—in the form of textured wallpaper or a brightly colored wall amidst a sea of neutrals, says Saladino. “One of my favorite wall treatments is brown-coat plaster, which is also called a scratch coat. It’s like the difference between bleached and unbleached flour,” he said.
And, as far as color goes, it’s perfectly acceptable to break the rules as well. “I do the opposite of what most people do: I paint north-facing rooms a cool color and put warmer tones in west or south-facing spaces,” he told Elle Decor. And for more home decor tips, check out these 30 Home Decorations No One Over 30 Should Own.
Use layers of lighting.
When lighting your home, it’s also important to make every space feel light and open. According to Saladino, each kind of light has a different purpose, and you should be utilizing every single variety of light to suit your needs. “For ambient light, try a chandelier with little brown paper shades, which give a beautiful, warm glow, and table lamps for intimacy. You need practical lights for reading and to keep you from falling down the stairs,” he said. Plus, this influx of lighting has the ability to transform your space by providing a light to display those treasures that might have been hidden in the dark previously.
Find inspiration from nature.
While inspiration doesn’t have to necessarily come from the great outdoors, using outside sources for inspiration can serve you well when creating your ideal space, says celebrity interior designer and television personality Kari Whitman. Even something as simple as trying to incorporate the color of your favorite food into your space can be a novel way to imprint your own aesthetic on to your home.
Use artwork to bring the room together.
Meromy also stresses the importance of using artwork to complete—no matter what your decor may be. “Something as simple as thoughtfully considering the scale of your furniture art and accessories can make it look like you spent a lot of money on your home (even if you didn’t!). We love to use large-scale art and decor—like a massive canvas that takes up an entire wall, or a well-oversized thick-framed mirror that leans against the wall instead of hanging—to create a space that’s impactful, memorable and grand,” he said.
Learn how to maximize brightness without windows.
As it turns out, you can effectively brighten a room without painting every wall a gleaming shade of white, according to Adam Rolston of Incorporated Architecture & Design. To maximize a room’s brightness that may not contain the adequate amount of outside light, simply attempt to keep the overall palette of the room light, while using accents like mirrors and reflective surfaces to catch the little amount of light currently streaming into the room. Antique mirrors can also be a great option for brightening a room since the glare from their surfaces won’t be as strong as the one from brand new mirrors.
Revive any room with statement wallpaper.
To save money on renovations, an easy trick to update a truly outdated room is to cover the walls in unique, eye-catching wallpaper. As Drew Stuart of the Carnegie Hill Project knows, colorful or retro wallpaper can completely transform an otherwise ugly room into one of warmth and style.
Use statement furniture to expand a room.
According to celebrity designer Jeff Andrews, the trick to making small rooms seem larger (ideal for those living in cramped apartments) is to incorporate a healthy dose of “statement furniture” into the space—and steer clear of adding pops of color, as it will do no favors to creating a cohesive vision. “Just go with varying textures and little bits of print to make it really cohesive and feel larger. Stay away from the proverbial pop of color. I think it doesn’t work, especially in a small space,” he said.
Don’t forget about the ceiling.
Just because the ceiling doesn’t receive as much attention as the other features in the room, doesn’t mean that it has to remain completely neglected, says Andrews. Even adding a simple white patterned wallpaper can elevate the style in your room, and provide yet another focal point for guests to admire.
Keep your design timeless.
To create a look that truly stands the test of time (meaning that you don’t have to hit the design reset button every five or so years), Andrews recommends combining the contemporary with the vintage.
“Choose iconic designs and pieces that are recognizable. Have a good blend of styles to make it interesting. Things that are more contemporary, a couple things that are vintage, and maybe something meaningful like a family heirloom,” he said. If you decide to follow a trend and fail to incorporate any pieces to ground the design scheme than you’re likely to have to reevaluate that trend in a few years’ time.
Add black accents for depth.
When done right, incorporating black accents into your home can actually add contrast and dimension—despite what many (inferior) interior decorators will tell you. The trick: keep these touches small in scale—use black curtain rods, lamps, or even just picture frames. Anything on a more grand scale may completely overwhelm the room.
Spend big on comfort.
Fact: finding the perfect, design-forward sofa might be time-consuming, but it will be worth it in the end. Outside of your bed there is no piece of furniture that gets further use—and says more about your tastes.
Invest more in your kitchen appliances.
According to Stephen Shadley, the guy who designed residences for both Diane Keaton and Jennifer Aniston, your kitchen appliances should also work to play an important role in the design scheme of your kitchen. Investing in nice, stainless steel appliances will keep your space looking polished and tidy—a key component when attempting to showcase other focal points in the space.
A neutral palette is the key to keeping your space timeless.
In order to avoid aging your design scheme, stick to a neutral palette that is filled in with more edgy and colorful accents. This way, when these trendy accents go out of style, as they nearly always do, you’ll easily be able to swap out the old trends for the new, and simply add them to your timeless neutral palette.
Learn how to artfully mix and match your prized possessions.
Meromy is also quick to articulate the fact that, while instilling a sense of yourself into a space is important, it shouldn’t be done so without a nod to the overall design scheme. “Not everything needs to be bought brand new, or have a designer label on it. In fact, good design is all about balance; and sourcing from all different places and price points will ensure that your space—in all of its elegance and sophistication—feels authentic and inviting as well to all your guests,” he said. So, in short—you do you, but also make it work within your home.
Upgrade your lampshades.
For those of you looking for an affordable way to update a space, look no further than your lampshades. Just one simple swap could bring a new bold and colorful accent into the space, according to Andrew Suvalsky, principal interior designer at ASD. “Chances are the ready-made lamp you choose comes with a basic, uninspired shade. The shade can really make or break the lamp. Therefore, opt for color or a cool fabric choice,” he told My Domaine. Further, choosing unexpected shapes can bring a dash of whimsy into a stuffy corner of any room.
Don’t neglect the nightstand.
If you find that your nightstand only contains relics of your day-to-day life, like coffee mugs and scraps of paper, then you can easily transform your bedroom by instilling a bit of style into these pieces, says Suvalsky. “Nightstands don’t need much, but if you do want a clock, dish to throw your jewelry in, or some other personal items you must have bedside, then pick ones that are beautiful and worthy of spending the night with. Function should be dressed in style—always,” he said.
Find drapes that suit every room.
Though ready-made draperies are incredibly easy to install, they often end up looking cheap and downplaying the natural architecture of a great window, says Suvalsky. “With a little research and not much expense, you can find drapery rods that come in variable sizes that will fit your windows perfectly,” he said. Further, instead of heading straight towards the white draperies, look instead to ones that can add a punch to the room—like those pictured above. Statement pieces can come in the most unexpected places.
Make your bedroom a multipurpose space.
Especially for those tiny apartment-dwellers, learning how to make the most of every space in your home is the key to find a sense of functionality among the clutter. In the bedroom, for example, squeezing in an armchair or desk in the corner can add more depth to the room and provide an easy way to make it multipurpose, according to Suvalsky.
Fully dress the bed.
As it turns out, your bed is never fully dressed without a smile—or, rather, things that make you smile, like textured blankets, luxuriously soft sheets, and wrinkle-free duvet covers. According to Suvalsky, failing to make your bed, or even invest in bedding that makes you feel more comfortable, is the first mistake when designing a cohesive space. “Most people tend to underplay the importance of dressing their bed and rely on the same rumpled duvets they sleep with nightly, [which are] barely pulled up during the day. This never gives a finished look,” he said.
Soften the whites.
Especially right now, stark whites seem to be incredibly popular when it comes to home decor, but, according to Jennifer Lopez’s interior designer, Michelle Workman, this color can often create harsh contrasts that take away from the warmth of a room. Especially for those who are seeking a more feminine space, implementing too many stark white details can almost work to the opposite effect, making any room more hard and masculine. So, if you’re still adamant about including white details, do it in small bursts—like with bedding, curtains, or accents.
Work from your own aesthetic and not from others.
If there’s one thing that Workman knows, it’s that working from your own aesthetic is the most important design trick in the book.
Speaking to Zillow, she recalled a time when a customer requested a design scheme like that of one of Lopez’s rooms—but Workman quickly discovered that this customer was only going with this aesthetic because it was trendy.
“She was very into fashion, so I asked her to send me some pictures of fashions that she was obsessed with—and her sense of aesthetic was opposite what she was asking for,” she said. So, follow this lesson and create a mood board containing items from fashion magazines or other bits of inspiration that can help give you direction when designing your space. Then, having a space that truly reflects your personal tastes will make it feel more at home than ever.
Invest in a wool rug.
As Anne DeCocco, a Raleigh-based interior design and owner DeCocco Design knows, every single detail in a home counts—including those touches underfoot. “While hardwoods are my favorite kind of floors, they often need to be warmed up (and protected) with area rugs. I think of them as artwork for the floor. You can use a lot of pattern and color in those rugs because they get quieter when laid down,” she told The Mercury News. Plus, investing in a wool rug gives you both the option of style and function, as it’s easily cleaned and resistant to staining.
Decorate your walls with souvenirs and family heirlooms.
Rather than hiding all of your family heirlooms and souvenirs in drawers, take them and put them proudly on display. “My favorite travel souvenir is a piece of art to hang on the wall or place on a shelf. And don’t forget old family pieces—storing them in boxes is just too sad. Dust them off and find a place to feature them in your home,” said DeCocco. Learning to incorporate these parts of yourself can also instill your own aesthetic into any room in your home.
Opt for sleeker ceiling fans—or remove them completely.
When looking to redesign a space, swapping out old fixtures can make a huge difference, says DeCocco. Replacing a bulky ceiling fan with something smaller and sleeker has the ability to transform an entire room. In fact, even foregoing the fan completely and opting for smaller LED lights that take up less space can allow the visitor’s eye to travel to other fixtures in the room, and not that pesky ceiling fan.
Add architectural staples to an otherwise boring room.
If you’ve decorated a room to the full extent that you can, and it still seems to lack a certain flavor that you’re after, DeCocco suggests adding architectural elements to add dimension and style. “Think arches, corbels, transoms…think beams. High-density polystyrene beams look incredibly real and are very easy to install on your ceiling (they cut like butter!). A couple of beams adds instant character to a room,” she told The Mercury News.
Avoid putting furniture around the perimeter of a room.
While it can be tempting to line every room with your favorite furniture, interior designer and stylist Ryan Korban warns that, by doing this, you can make the rooms in your house inadvertently appear smaller.
“It leaves empty space in the middle of the room and lacks interest in traffic flow. The best trick is to work in the middle of the room,” he told Refinery29. Placing your furniture in the middle of the room is even a strategic way to make a smaller space seem larger, as it fills the room and leaves spaces alongside the wall that works to make the space appear larger.
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